Stop running to the Big Brothers

Internationalisation of Sri Lankan politics that has been going on apace for quite a while is now entering the realm of the ridiculous.

We have had international election observers, officials of international money lending institutions drawing up our national budget, international foreign experts on various fields telling much more qualified Sri Lankans what to do in specific fields, international peace brigades telling people of different communities how to live amicably together even though these people have done so for centuries and now we have the international ceasefire monitors to prevent the armed forces and the LTTE and perhaps the people going for each others jugulars.

Now, in this independent and sovereign republic of Sri Lanka where the people have elected Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga as president ( for the first time with a record majority of 61 per cent) we have the Chief Opposition Whip, Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, calling upon ambassadors and high commissioners of six leading foreign powers to complain about the ‘ systematic destablisation of the President’s security and the witch hunt initiated against opposition members’.

The simple question that arises is: What have these representatives of six foreign powers got to do in what is quite obviously a simple domestic affair? In most countries any positive response on their part would be constituted as a gross interference with the internal affairs of the country concerned.

But what Mr. Samaraweera is doing is not something new. The UNP during its six years in the Opposition cultivated this habit of running to foreign embassies and complaining bitterly about undemocractic acts of President Kumaratunga and her government. In an editorial on August 25, 2001, ‘The Island’ said: ‘Quite apart from the internationalisation of the separatist issue, even local politics has got interantionalised to such an extent that we are having foreign negotiators for parliamentary problems as well.. In recent years, local politics has shown an increasing tendency to play up to the ‘international community’. When the government takes some anti democratic step, the opposition goes running to the diplomatic community in Colombo to apprise them of the situation. And the government in turn tries to lobby the diplomatic community and say that what the opposition said was not true. Both the government and the opposition have been falling over each other to carry tales (kelang) to the diplomatic community in Colombo.’

Now, the political karmic cycle having traversed a full 360 degrees and the roles of the PA and UNP have been reversed, Mr. Samaraweera plays up to the predilection of ‘peace’ of the diplomatic community and claims that, ‘At a time when constructive co- habitation between the government and the opposition is of paramount importance, especially in relation to the peace process, the emerging trend of harassment and intimidation of the president are indeed very disturbing’.

Whether these charges made are true or not, Mr. Samaraweera should have made this an issue in parliament and failing that sought redress in courts. The counter argument will be that parliament has been undemocratic and that the courts are biased. If so, this is once again a visitation of karmic sin on the PA for having practised the same thing and not taken corrective measures. At least now, the UNF government is going ahead, giving teeth to the 17th Amendment that could cure much of the abuses of power by incumbent governments.

What seems to have been forgotten is that the ultimate court of appeal for politicians and their political parties are the people who elected them and not the diplomatic community. A twice elected president, should go to the people and make her harassment known to the public rather than go to foreign powers in the hope that they will pressurise the government to desist from their actions.

The line of demarcation between politicians and their governments as against diplomats were sharp and clear till 1983 when the communal riots broke out. The Tamil community sought refuge in the west— and are still doing so— thus internationalising the issue. The extent of interference in the affairs of Sri Lanka in many areas reducing the independence and sovereignty of the nation is increasing. It is being argued that in this age of free trade, globalisation and human rights, there has to be reduction on sovereignty. It was Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair who enunciated his concept of limited sovereignty before Anglo-American attacks on Serbia : Sovereignty of nations have to be sacrificed in the context of defence of human rights. Even if it be so, it is the giddy limit if foreign powers are called in to settle intra party political disputes! Does this happen in any other country?

While foreign powers should avoid getting involved in the internal affairs of this country as much as possible, it is time our politicians stopped running to the Big Brothers, crying, foul!

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